The Tang Prize Foundation collaborated with the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) to stage a Tang Prize Lecture on June 26 at its most important annual conference in Asia, taking place in Daegu, Korea this year. Renowned historian and 2020 Tang Prize laureate in Sinology Professor Wang Gungwu delivered the lecture, titled “One Identity Too Many,” via video link, telling a touching story that weaved together personal experiences and historical events and edifying the audience with an in-depth analysis of the concept of “home.” Following the lecture was Professor Wang’s conversation with incumbent AAS President Professor Jean Oi, during which they tried to “unpick and explain” the echoes that reverberate from the “grand and even intimidating universe” that is the past. This special session brought the three-day gathering to a successful conclusion.
Dr. Jenn-Chuan Chern, CEO of the Tang Prize Foundation, noted that AAS is the largest global organization dedicated to Asia studies, and the Tang Prize in Sinology is currently the most prestigious award in the discipline of Chinese studies worldwide. It is therefore a real honor to be invited by the AAS to coordinate this lecture. While allowing Professor Wang to share views with thousands of Sinologists from Asia and beyond, it also gave the Foundation an opportunity to fulfill its educational role as a disseminator of knowledge. In the past, the Tang Prize Lecture had been held in many international meetings related to the fields it is awarded, including those of the Experimental Biology (EB), the World Congress of Pharmacology (WCP) and the World Academy of Science (TWAS). These occasions have expanded the Tang Prize’s global network and highlighted its role as a platform for facilitating information exchange between people of Chinese descent and the global public.
In today’s lecture, Professor Wang reflected on one of the conference’s themes––“memory”––by drawing on his memoirs, Home Is Not Here and Home Is Where We Are. He took the audience through the unexpected turns and wondrous meanders of a unique life fashioned by homes newly found and constructed across many continents. As major events are shaping the history of China, Southeast Asia and the world, this journey is a self-reflection on one’s identity and one that finds resonances through the infinite voices and feelings of belonging of the Chinese diaspora.
Professor Wang completed the two autobiographies when he was approaching ninety. The Chinese versions were published in 2020 by the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Home Is Not Here chronicles his life from birth until the age of 19 when he left Malaya (now Malaysia) to attend the newly established University of Malaya in Singapore. These rites of passage to adulthood, filled with uncertainties and unexpected twists, had a huge impact on his academic and personal trajectory. Its sequel, Home Is Where We Are, was co-authored by Professor Wang and his wife, Margaret Wang. An account of their peripatetic life moving between seven cities located in five countries, including Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, London, Cambridge, Canberra, and Hong Kong, this book is an emotional and intellectual exploration of one’s search for identity and belonging.
The 2020 Tang Prize in Sinology was awarded to Professor Wang Gungwu for “his groundbreaking research on the Chinese world order, Chinese overseas, and Chinese migratory experience. As the leading historian on Sino-Southeast Asian relations, he develops a unique approach to understanding China by scrutinizing its long and complex relation with its southern neighbors. His erudition and insight have significantly enriched the explanation of Chinese people’s changing place in the world, traditionally developed from an internalist perspective or in relation to the West.
About the Tang Prize
The advent of industrialization and globalization ushered in a new era of comfort and convenience through scientific and technological advancements. Yet, a multitude of crises have emerged along the way, such as climate change, wealth gap, and moral degradation. As a response, Dr. Samuel Yin founded the Tang Prize in December 2012. It consists of four award categories, namely Sustainable Development, Biopharmaceutical Science, Sinology, and Rule of Law. Every two years, four independent and professional selection committees made up of distinguished international experts and scholars, including several Nobel laureates, choose Tang Prize winners from a pool of nominees who have influenced and made substantive contributions to the world, regardless of their ethnicity, nationality or gender. A cash prize of NT$50 million (approx. US$1.75 million) is allocated to each category, with NT$10 million of it (approx. US$ 0.35 million) designated as a research grant to fund laureates’ research and education projects. The hope is to encourage more people with professional knowledge and skills to address mankind’s most urgent needs in this century, and to become leading forces behind the development of human society through their outstanding research and civic engagement.